Today in YA History: February 12, 1938 – Judy Blume born!

February 12, 1938: Beloved author Judy Blume (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Blubber; Forever…) born in Elizabeth, NJ!

Judy, the second child of Esther and Ralph Sussman, “spent most of [her] childhood making up stories inside of [her] head.” She briefly attended Boston University before transferring to New York University–where she met future-husband John Blume in 1959. The couple were married while Judy was entering her junior year. She graduated from NYU in 1961 with a bachelor’s in teaching. The couple had two children, Randy Lee and Lawrence Adam, before separating in 1975.

Blume met her current husband, mystery novel author George Cooper, in Vancouver. They married in 1987 and are together to this day, living in New York City.

Her first novel, The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, was published in 1969. She began writing while her children were in pre-school and she was pursuing a teaching career of her own. In ten years, she published thirteen more books, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in 1970 and Blubber in 1974. She has become a household name to young readers everywhere, especially in America. Though the subjects tackled in her novels have often been under fire or up for censorship and banning, she is especially praised by fans for “her use of real-life settings, ambivalent endings and gentle humor.”

From Wikipedia:

    [M]any of Judy Blume’s books deal with difficult issues for children, including questioning the existence of God, friendship, religion, divorce, body image, and sexuality. However, Blume has stated that she does not set out to tackle these issues when writing. She begins with a character, or sometimes a character and a situation.

From her official site:

    She is the founder and trustee of The Kids Fund, a charitable and educational foundation. She serves on the boards of the Author’s Guild; the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; the Key West Literary Seminar; and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Blume’s books have sold over 80 million copies and been translated into 31 languages.

Do you traverse the Twitter-sphere? Follow her @JudyBlume!

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Today in YA History: November 10, 1971 – Holly Black born!

November 10, 1971: Author Holly Black (Tithe, Spiderwick Chronicles) is born in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

Born Holly Riggenbach, during her early years Holly’s family lived in a “decrepit Victorian house” in New Jersey. She studied at Rutgers University and ultimately graduated from The College of New Jersey in 1994, with a B.A. in English. She married high school sweetheart, Theo Black (illustrator and web designer), in 1999. They now live together in Amherst, Massachusetts in “a house with a secret library”!

She briefly considered becoming a librarian before her writing career took off with the publication of her first novel, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, in 2002. The world of Kaye, a young changeling, is continued in Valiant : A Modern Tale of Faerie and concluded in Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale.

Holly has “edited and contributed to the role-playing culture magazine “d8” (and has made allusions to Role-playing and LARPing in her works), worked as a production editor for medical journals such as The Journal of Pain, and was the co-executive producer for The Spiderwick Chronicles film based on her mid-grade series of the same name.

The Spiderwick Series–translated in 32 languages since the five-book series was published–spawned not only a film, but also a video game, and several world-expanding collections such as the illustrated Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to The Fantastical World Around You, The Notebook for Fantastical Observations, Care and Feeding of Sprites and the three-book follow-up series Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles.

She has contributed to and edited anthologies such as “Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd”, “Eternal Kiss”, and “Zombies vs. Unicorns”.

In October 2011, she made an announcement that fans had long been waiting for: Holly had signed a deal with Little Brown Books for Young Readers for a YA vampire novel titled The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Happy birthday, Holly!

Today in YA History: October 31, 1977 – Jo Whittemore born!

October 31, 1977: Jo Whittemore, author of The Silverskin Legacy Series, is born in Kentucky!

From Olivia: Hi there ‘Today in YA History’ readers! I have a special one for you today: it’s The Silverskin Legacy author Jo Whittemore’s birthday! That’s right: she’s a Halloween baby and a part of YA History!

I contacted Jo about this, and she has been super awesome in agreeing to a quick interview, so you can learn more about her and her books. Let’s get this rolling…

Today in YA History: Jo, thank you very much for agreeing to this guest appearance at Today in YA History. Since your birthday falls on my favorite holiday, I am especially excited that you are my first interview! Happy birthday!

So, you have published The Silverskin Legacy, a YA trilogy about the magical land of Arylon. What can you tell new readers about this series and what sets it apart from other fantasy adventures?

Jo Whittemore: A lot of current fantasy is set in this world or a dystopic one with fantastical elements. The Silverskin Legacy is high fantasy, which is one of my favorites. Two teens from our world accidentally get pulled into an alternate one by their next-door neighbor, who happens to be a wizard. The only way they can get home is a staff of power that gets stolen. The first book in the trilogy is about retrieving the staff and the second and third continue their adventures in Arylon after things don’t go quite as planned. The trilogy contains a lot of your traditional fantasy elements (dragons, unicorns, necromancers) with a few I’ve created and thrown in (Ponzipoo, Siall cats, narshorn). I highly recommend. :-)

TIYAH: Sounds interesting, especially those Siall cats…

I see you are currently publishing books for mid-grade readers, which sound like a lot of fun. What other projects are you working on next?

JW: Thanks for asking! Next year, I have another middle grade humor novel coming out about a group of theater misfits that never make the cut and decide to put on their own show. Shenanigans and mayhem ensue.

After that, I’m fiddling around with the idea for a superhero book and another humor novel set overseas. (I’m thinking “research” trip!)

TIYAH: I’ll be on the watch for that superhero story for sure!

Now, you are one of the founding members of AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom). This group’s members include your fellow YA authors like Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, and Scott Westerfeld. How and why did such a good-looking group of authors come together? (And if you know what day AS IF! was born, I would love to post it in YA History!)

JW: Oh, my gosh, it’s been so long since we formed that group, I’m not sure of the specific day! Honestly, the group was created to address censorship in literature, particularly for teens. Certain schools and libraries ban books, and some churches protest the “unhealthy” content of YA literature, but the topics in these novels are what teens face every day. People may not want teens to read books that reference substance abuse, but it’s out there and it’s happening. Why not address it head-on in a relatable fashion?

TIYAH: There’s a lot going on these days, too, questioning how teen audiences are influenced by YA books. It’s nice to see a group of authors come together to tackle those discussions head-on.

So this next one is a two-parter. When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? And now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?

JW: Let’s see… when I was a teen, I didn’t have a favorite book, I had a favorite series–the Agatha Christie murder mysteries. The characters were so well-developed (LOVED Poirot) and all the foreshadowing and thought that went into the plotting was awesome. My favorite contemporary YA would have to be “13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson. I love the idea of a travel adventure.

TIYAH: Oo, I agree, 13LBE is a great read. All right, last one! In honor of your birthday and it being Halloween… If you were going to go trick-or-treating tonight to get some candy and no one would think twice about it, what would you be dressed as and what candies would you be on the prowl for?

JW: I’d be dressed like Cat Woman, a feline femme fatale. And I’d be on the prowl for Milk…y Way.

Kidding! I’m an M&Ms girl. Peanut. Shaken, not stirred.

TIYAH: Nice! I was always a black cat for Halloween growing up myself. We can stalk the neighborhood together!

Well, thank you very much, Jo! And again, from Today in YA History, have a very happy birthday and a great Halloween!

Readers, be sure to check out Jo Whittemore at her home page to keep up with her work. And you can purchase The Silverskin Legacy at your local independent bookstore!

Today in YA History: October 27, 2009 – Final “Luxe” book published!

October 27, 2009: The fourth and final installment in Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series, “Splendor”, is published by HarperTeen.

About the series, from The Luxe website:

    Set in a world of luxury and deception, the Luxe series will take you on a thrilling trip to the age of innocence that’s anything but innocent. Don’t miss your chance to dance in the gilded ballrooms of nineteenth century Manhattan, and slip away with the city’s most charming bachelors. Your carriage ride to 1899 awaits within the pages of Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series.


    As spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father’s death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

    Carolina Broad, society’s newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father’s rule extends well beyond New York’s shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

    In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York’s most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate.

These fun, adventurous, and fashionable books can be found at your local independent bookseller!

Today in YA History: October 23, 1961 – Laurie Halse Anderson born!

October 23, 1961: American author Laurie Halse Anderson is born in Potsdam, New York. Her most famous YA work, Speak, has been translated into 16 languages. You can read about Speak‘s day in YA History here!

Born Laurie Beth Halse (pronounced Halt-z, like waltz), she knew she wanted to be a writer by the time she was in second grade. She had spent time playing with her Methodist minster father’s typewriter, and had been taught how to write haiku by her second grade teacher. According to Anderson, “The giant light bulb clicked on over my head: ‘Oh, my goodness! I can do this!’ I hope every second grader learns how to write haiku.”

From 2nd grade haikus, she kept writing, eventually beginning her career as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. For a time, she worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

She began writing novels and, after hundreds of “discouraging rejection letters” from publishers, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators where she found a supportive critique group. Anderson says they “made all the difference.” She published 3 picture books for young readers.

Finally, in 1999, Farrar Straus & Giroux published what would go on to be Mrs. Anderson’s most famous novel to date, Speak, a young adult novel of a fourteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault. The novel, critically acclaimed and part of middle school curriculums around the country, was made into a film in 2004. The novels that followed include Fever, 1793 (2000), Catalyst (2002), Twisted (2007), and her most recent Wintergirls (2009).

Laurie, living in Northern New York with her husband (childhood sweetheart Scot, father of their four children), now writes both contemporary Young Adult and Historical Fiction books (including picture books for early readers). History has been a life-long love for Laurie, and she has written several novels involving Colonial and Revolutionary America. Over the next decade, be on the look out for more books for Laurie as she alternates between these two genres!

When she’s not writing, Laurie enjoys spending time with her family, working in her garden, training for marathons, or hiking in the nearby mountains of her home. While she has taken time away from visiting schools–to write all those books we’re waiting for!–Laurie does sometimes set up Skype visits. Learn all about it!

A few parting words of advice from Laurie’s website:

    “Any career in the arts has a simple truth attached to it: you have to do the work every day. That is how you get better. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published. I have never before written the book I am writing now.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

Visit her on twitter @asklaurie and say happy birthday! Or purchase her books at your local Independent bookstore today!

[[All quotes are from Laurie’s website! Check it out, it’s pretty fascinating and totally huge. Laurie even has a whole page where she talks about Censorship!]]